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REPUBLIC OF YEMEN: Spree of arbitrary arrests, disappearances and torture by Huthi forces

29 May 2016
[International Secretariat]
Region: REPUBLIC OF YEMEN
Topic: Regional conflict

The Huthi armed group, supported by state security forces, has carried out a wave of arrests of its opponents, arbitrarily seizing critics at gunpoint and subjecting some to enforced disappearance as part of a chilling campaign to quash dissent in areas of Yemen under its control, said Amnesty International in a new report published today.

Where is my father? Detention and disappearance in Huthi-controlled Yemen, which is based on 60 cases of detention examined in detail by the organization, reveals a pattern of arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances between December 2014 and March 2016. Those targeted include political opposition figures, human rights defenders, journalists, academics and others. Many have been held incommunicado for prolonged periods, suffered torture and other ill-treatment and been denied access to a lawyer or their family.

“Huthi forces have presided over a brutal and deliberate campaign targeting their political opponents and other critics since December 2014. Hundreds of people have been rounded up and held without charge or trial, and in some cases they have been forcibly disappeared in flagrant violation of international law,” said James Lynch, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

In the vast majority of cases those detained were given no reason for their arrest. Some prisoners have been held for up to 17 months without being brought before a prosecutor or a judge. None of the detainees featured in the report were ever officially charged or given an opportunity to challenge the lawfulness of their detention. Huthi officials told Amnesty International in May 2016 that those in detention were being held “because they gave GPS coordinates to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition”.

Amnesty International has obtained documents which show that prosecuting authorities have found the detention of dozens of political activists, journalists and others to be without legal basis and have ordered their release, apparently to no effect.

The report includes distressing accounts from former detainees, and from family members of detainees, who described to Amnesty International the use of torture and other ill-treatment in detention.

Wide range of people targeted

The majority of those targeted are activists, journalists or other figures affiliated with al-Islah, a Sunni Islamist political party which opposed the Huthi takeover of power and announced its support for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in April 2015. However, in some cases those detained had no known political affiliation or history that could explain why they were targeted. At least 11 journalists are among those who have been arbitrarily detained.

Adel Hajr, a teacher from Hodeidah has been detained since December 2014. He was rounded up with a number of friends during Friday evening prayers, was given no reason for his arrest and has been held incommunicado for prolonged periods.

“Adel is a father of two, one little girl and one little boy, he is just a mathematics teacher. In his spare time he used to volunteer at an orphanage. Why did they take him?” his wife, Arwa, said to Amnesty International.

The Ministry of Human Rights in the Yemeni capital Sana’a, which is under Huthi control, told Amnesty International in a 16 May memorandum that accusations of arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and torture were “baseless” and that those who criticise the authorities in Sana’a have “not been subjected to any repressive measures”, as “Yemen and its authorities firmly believe in freedom of expression”.

A special committee for prisoners and detainees has been created during peace talks on Yemen which are currently taking place in Kuwait. Amnesty International is calling on parties to the talks, as well as international actors facilitating or supporting the process, to ensure that the rights of those detained arbitrarily in areas under Huthi control and their families are prioritised during the negotiations.

18 May 2016
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE

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